MBA vs. MS: Which Is Right for You?

Woman smiles after her graduation ceremony

After earning an undergraduate degree in a business management field, people will typically enter the job marketplace or start their own companies. However, at some point, you may decide that to further your career, you need to acquire additional qualifications. Going back to school is a great way to build your skill set, expand your professional network and enhance your competitive edge.

Professionals in business management fields can choose between a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree and an Master of Science (MS) degree. These two degree programs overlap in many ways, but there are crucial differences that you should be aware of before you make your decision. Some schools offer both types of degrees in various business management specializations.

Here’s a look at both options.

An Overview of MBA Programs

The Master of Business Administration degree is widely considered to be the gold standard in academic credentials for aspiring executives. It is an internationally recognized degree that enables students to develop a solid framework of competencies. It is customary for an MBA program to focus on key areas such as the following:

  • Leadership styles and skills
  • Communication abilities
  • Ethical decision-making
  • Critical thinking and analytical reasoning

Students can expect an MBA program to deliver a curriculum that is broad in scope, making this degree a good choice for individuals in a wide range of industries and organization types. However, some schools do offer specialization options for MBA students. You can choose from a full array of specializations, including sports business, project management, finance, health systems management, marketing and strategic human resource management.

An Overview of MS Programs

Professionals with a Master of Science degree in a business management field are viewed as leading experts in their field. Whereas a typical MBA degree program instills a wide breadth of competencies, an MS program involves an in-depth exploration of a particular area. A Master of Science degree is an excellent option for students who know exactly which area of business most interests them, whether it’s accounting, business analytics or leadership.

The Focus and Academic Experience of MBA Students

In a Master of Business Administration degree, students will typically take courses across multiple topic areas. These include accounting, finance, marketing and operations management. Students who choose an MBA degree with specialization will also take courses pertaining to that specialization. For example, students earning an MBA with an Emphasis in Sports Business study broad topics like managerial finance, applied business statistics and economics, as well as specialized topics like sports business analytics and sports business revenue generation.

MBA students can expect to work through a rigorous curriculum that emphasizes hands-on learning experiences along with traditional class time. However, another primary focus of an MBA program is to build professional networks. MBA students can make the most of their time in school by making new acquaintances, perhaps connecting with a mentor and building connections at companies they may one day work with or work for.

The Focus and Academic Experience of MS Students

An MS degree program is typically more focused on academics and traditional class time than an MBA degree program. However, students may still undertake hands-on learning experiences. For example, students earning a Master of Science in Leadership (MSL) will take the Leadership Capstone. This involves developing and executing a community- or organization-based project that demonstrates their leadership skills.

Typically, all of the courses in an MS degree are acutely focused on that particular area. For example, students earning an MSL will study the following topics:

  • Servant leadership
  • Leadership styles
  • Coaching, mentoring and leadership development
  • Leadership and innovation

MS students will emerge with a keen understanding of their area of specialization, making them competitive candidates for high-level positions.

The Best of Both Worlds: A Dual Degree

What happens if you simply can’t choose between an MBA and an MS degree? Both have compelling advantages, and both will help graduates further their career ambitions. For professionals who want the best of both worlds, some schools offer a dual degree. Students who earn a Master of Business Administration and Master of Science in Leadership (MBA/MSL) degree are uniquely qualified professionals who are capable of effecting positive change in their chosen industries. Earning an MBA/MSL degree will set you apart from other job candidates and help you pursue the pinnacle of your career.

Whether you decide on an MBA program or an MS degree—or both—you can find what you’re looking for at Grand Canyon University. Our private, Christian university is pleased to offer a diverse selection of MBA programs and MS degrees, including the Master of Science in Leadership (MSL), Master of Science in Health Care Administration (MHA) and Master of Business Administration degree with specializations available in accounting, cybersecurity, finance, leadership and many more. Are you ready to begin? Click on Request Info at the top of your screen to begin your academic journey at GCU.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.

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